The issue of press regulation is something of a hot topic at the moment; everyone has been talking about it. As the aftershocks of the Murdoch phone hacking scandal proceed to strike the media industry, David Cameron today announced that the members of a new Media Ethics Inquiry have now been finalised:
• Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty
• David Currie, former director of OfCom
• Sir Paul Scott-Lee, former Police Chief
• Elinor Goodman, Chanel 4 political editor
• George Jones, former political editor of The Daily Telegraph
• Sir David Bell, former chairman of The Financial Times
The scope of the inquiry has also been elucidated. Cameron attested that the conduct of broadcasters, the use of social media and the wider relationship between the media and UK police forces would all be examined, as stated in Press Gazette.
The inquiry will decide the form of the new regulatory system that will replace the Press Complaints Comission, which Mr Cameron dubbed "ineffective," "lacking in rigour" and "institutionally conflicted."
However, there have also been warnings about rashly implementing press regulations that might ultimately harm the media business and press freedom within the U.K.. Media lawyer Tony Jaffa, writing for Holdthefrontpage.co.uk, warns of a backlash against other, smaller publications due to the extremely low public opinion of a certain brand of journalism.
However, it must be remembered that it was the investigative power of the press that uncovered this wrongdoing, as The Washington Post hastens to point out. Jaffa, in his article, points out that the new regulation committee must at all times keep this in mind in order to protect the democratic power of the press.
The Press Complaints Commission, according to Mr. Jaffa, is actually an effective means of regulating journalists, most of whom believe in their ethical obligations and treat the PCC as a 'serious and effective regulator'. There are those who have accused Mr Cameron of seeking a '"convenient scalp"' by placing the blame squarely on the PCC, but then with this level of public furor, it is clear that, wrong as it may be to tar an entire industry with one brush, many members of the public have lost faith in journalism and demand clear and decisive action to ensure that the practices at The News of the World are never repeated.
Therefore, it seems that one of the many challenges awaiting the Media Ethics Inquiry panel is how to treat journalists as a professional body. Should there be more stringent regulation to tackle those journalists with no regard for ethical standards? Or should the committee refrain, in order to maintain press freedom, thereby placing its trust in the fact that most of the press are willing to act ethically? If the inquiry chooses to do the later, the question still remains: does the public have sufficient trust in journalists to accept moderate regulatory measures?